Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

Women File Fewer FCC Net Neutrality Comments Than Men

Men filed significantly more comments with the Federal Communications Commission on its net neutrality proposal than women, according to preliminary findings of an analysis commissioned by the Knight Foundation.

San Francisco-based data analytics company Quid was selected to conduct the analysis, and here’s how Quid’s Sean Gourley, chief technology officer and co-founder, and Sarah Pilewski, head of intelligence, described the project in a Knight Foundation blog post Monday:

Knight has asked us to explore the public narratives around net neutrality. Our goal is to explore the discussion of net neutrality across news outlets and social media, breaking down the key messages that are propagating about this issue…. Ultimately, we aim to provide Knight with a mechanism to amplify the impact of its partnerships, funding and marketing messages, and empower American people.

The foundation  has provided grants to projects that “strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation,” like portable Wi-Fi hotspot borrowing, information collection on online censorship, and secure texts.

Part of what Quid has found so far is a gender disparity in Twitter and FCC comments on net neutrality. Gourley and Pilewski write in their post:

Based upon a statistical analysis of user names, we estimate that 27 percent of Twitter users using the #netneutrality hashtag are women. This ratio is echoed in the FCC comments, where approximately 29 percent of comments are from women.

Among the data sets that Quid used in its analysis were roughly a quarter of the more than 1 million net neutrality comments that have been filed with the FCC and a sample of roughly 20,000 tweets with #NetNeutrality over a one-month period this summer.

Another result from the initial findings, which were released Monday: About 30 percent of the approximately 250,000 FCC net neutrality comments were based on a template. Pilewski told Technocrat in an email that the 30 percent figure is “significantly lower than expected.” She added that the 30 percent figure represents people who copied and pasted a template with no changes and that they expected another roughly 20 percent of comments to be “close derivatives of these templates.”

Quid also categorized the 250,000 net neutrality comments it sampled into  “topic clusters,” listing 10 including:

  • “A pay-to-play system will harm the diversity of the internet;”
  • “Fast lanes will destroy the internet;”
  • “Need for equality in promoting the American Dream;”
  • “All content should be equally accessible.”

The initial findings also say Quid looked at more than 50,000 news sources and 200,000 blogs, identifying roughly 8,400 net neutrality-related stories between January and mid-July.

Another interesting finding from analysis of approximately 1,600 stories between the end of May and July 18: The top two clusters have do to with people filing FCC comments and also with a televised rant by HBO comedian John Oliver. According to the initial findings, stories about Oliver’s role in crashing the FCC’s commenting site constituted 12 percent of stories, and people filing comments with the agency came in at 10 percent.

The report also looked at coverage according to type of publication, the net neutrality discussion on Twitter, and  lobbying money on the topic from 2009 until the second quarter of 2014.

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